The LSU Tigers picked up their first win in more than 2 weeks, and even the series with the Arkansas Razorbacks, by putting up a 71-65 win. It was as much of a team effort as the Tigers have had in a long time, as four different players scored in double figures, and eight players tallied more than 10 minutes of game time.
The player of the game, I thought, was Anthony Hickey. Hickey finished with 12 points, 3 steals, and 3 assists. With a 6-11 shooting day, he will maintain his over-50% shooting percentage for SEC play. Looking at the box score, you wouldn't think that Hickey was the difference maker, but it was evident that when he sat with foul trouble that the team wasn't playing as good as they would when he was on the floor.
The reason was that Hickey led the ATTACK against the Arkansas press. Not only did LSU's guards cut down on the turnovers, they actively ran up the court to beat Arkansas to the basket. It worked, very well, and was the difference in the game. Rather than tiring LSU out, at times it looked like the Hogs were the tired team as they got into deep foul trouble in the second half.
It would be insulting to ignore PMAC's favorite player, Eddie Ludwig, who immediately made an impact off the bench. Eddie finished with 12 big points and 4 rebounds. On a day when Johnny O'Bryant couldn't get anything to go down, Eddie was there to either clean up the mess or draw the foul. His first basket was an "and1" foul, and he followed up with the free throw. Only minutes later it was a somewhat lucky 3 pointer from the top of the key that got him up to 6 points.
It would also be bad of me not to give a kudos to Ralston Turner for his big game. Turner led the game with 16 points, with 7 of them coming from the free throw line. I have to continue to point out that this kind of game is what I was expecting from Turner all season. He doesn't need to simply shoot, he's got the size to get to the basket and draw fouls or finish the lay up. Turner played with an aggressiveness that we haven't seen all that much this season.
The flow of the game was certainly up and down. LSU took a lead as big as 11, before it was eventually cut down to a single point. However, Arkansas never held a lead in the second half. The key stretch had to have been the ~9:00 to 4:00 mark of the first half, where LSU took their first lead and extended it to double figures. Even though the Hogs made it closer later in the game, they dug a hole for themselves that was just too deep to get out of.
It did have a strangely familiar feeling as other games past. The best part is that LSU never let Arkansas get any good shots in the final minute. The 3 point defense in that final minute was suffocating, and even led to a turnover that people betting on LSU had to like(a 3 would have resulted in a lost bet).
The team has work left to do though. I think Vanderbilt can sort of be considered a "gravy" game because it's so tough to win there no matter who you are. A win in that game would probably be the best of the season, even though they will be coming off a loss to Florida. After that though, I think Alabama is a must win, especially since it's one of the final two opportunities to make a statement at home this season.